It was the Fall of 2000, I was beginning my freshman year at Rider University but I still was working weekends at Toms River FuncoLand. Wooza was still manager and Shane had recently been promoted to Assistant Manager after our previous Assistant Manager, Debbie, decided the FuncoLand way of life wasn’t for her anymore. It had been a rough Summer for the crew and we lost much of the rest our staff to the upcoming school semester. I had been 3rd Key since the previous Fall. 3rd Key was basically a part-time shift supervisor who had to work between 16-20 hours a week. In order for me to keep this status, I worked 5pm to close on Friday nights, open to close on Saturdays, and open to close on Sundays. It was a rough schedule to maintain, but I needed the money and I really still loved working at FuncoLand still.
Sometime during the month of November, Wooza had been fired as our store had a serious shrink problem that we could not get under control. Shane and Wooza knew it was coming and it could not be avoided. Corporate brought in a new manager named Darren. We could tell right away that this guy’s sole mission was to clean house and bring in a new crew as they felt the entire staff was somehow responsible for the shrink problems. Shane and I worked that weekend and tried to get a read on this guy to determine if we would have jobs much longer or not.
That Sunday, I went back to school as I always did and I left Shane alone for the week with Darren and the remaining crew. That Friday I came in to start my usual shift and Darren was there; he said we needed to talk. He said that my weekends only schedule would not work for him if I wanted to remain 3rd Key. He said I could demote myself to “Game Advisor” and keep my wage. I was fine with this. Shane and I went bowling with Darren that night at the bowling alley on Rt. 37 in Toms River. Darren seemed like a cool guy minus the fact that he loved Creed. We had a good time with him and all seemed well with the guy. Shane and I felt comfortable with the new leadership but little did we know what we were in for…
Sometime during that week Shane was let go and immediately a new Assistant Manager named Jed was brought in from the Absecon, NJ store. I came in on Friday to new faces. It was around this time a kid from my high school named Onofrio, who was younger than me and lived in the neighborhood behind the store, was hired as another “Game Advisor”. All seemed well until one fateful Saturday…
Author’s note: There is a lot more to the Shane and Wooza firing story. I am saving that story for another time. I need to consult a collection of records and files I have still at my parent’s before I am able to properly document this story. Trust me though, it’ll be worth the wait.
When people quit Funcoland or were fired, it was not uncommon for them to have paychecks owed to them for many weeks after their departure. We recieved a check every week from corporate, one week a commission check, and the next our pay check, for a total of 4 checks a month. Wooza and Shane had not been gone long and they still had checks coming to them. At some point during that Saturday, I asked Jed to make change for me from the safe. While he was in there I noticed that there was a paycheck for Wooza. I asked Jed if I should call him and let him know, he said to go ahead. I went and called Wooza, he came in shortly there after, and picked up his check, which Assistant Manager Jed had to remove from the safe himself, without incident.
That week while at school, I got a call from Darren who stated that the paycheck was not supposed to be given to Wooza and that he was holding me responsible for the check going out. He told me the head of loss prevention, Keith, would be coming to interview me that Friday. The writing was on the wall for me, I knew what this meant, I was the next to go. Ever since the beginning, we had all heard the fabled name of Keith. He was a heavy set man who carried around his own stool to sit on and was a no nonsense interrogator. No one survived meetings with Keith. If you met with him, you were fired.
I placed a call to the only friend I had left in the NJ FuncoLand family, Will. Will was now the manager of the Freehold Mall FuncoLand store and was well respected in the FuncoLand community. I had gotten to know Will the previous Summer when Wooza was training to become our new Manager and again when Wooza was thrown through a glass window of the Ocean County Mall’s Spencer Gifts store. Wooza needed to take some serious time off to recuperate so corporate brought in Will to fill in for Wooza’s shifts. Will was a nice guy, he loved LFO, Pokémon cards, and cute girls. I worked a lot of shifts with Will and he told me when he left if I ever wanted to come work for him at the Freehold Mall, he’d always have a spot for me. I never thought I would cash in that favor but here I was facing a meeting with Keith and nowhere else to turn.
I called the Freehold Store from my dorm, Will was not working. The person on the phone asked me who I was and what I needed. I told him I needed to get word to Will that I needed his help. The guy told me to call back in 10 minutes. I did. He said, “Call Will at 6pm on Friday, he’ll be waiting for your call.” I started my shift that Friday at 5pm. Darren had left when I arrived and Jed was already a few hours into his closing shift. I told him, “I need to make a call in the backroom at 6pm sharp.” He said it was fine and to take as much time as I needed. 6pm rolled around and I called the Freehold Store. “Thank you for calling Freehold FuncoLand, this is Will, how can I help you?” I told Will it was me and proceeded to lay out the situation I was facing. Will too saw I was being railroaded. He told me there was a simple solution to all of this, “I’ll hire you as my 3rd key. I will get you out of there.” He instructed me to go through with the loss prevention interview that Saturday and at the end of it before I was dismissed, I was to inform Keith Wiener that I was going to put in my 2 weeks and take a job at the Freehold Store being a 3rd key again. I had the ace up my sleeve that I needed. I felt good about my showdown with Keith…
The conclusion of this story is published HERE.